WAIMEA — Carlina Vea said the hat was theirs but the lei was hers during the Waimea Town Celebration’s Paniolo Hat Lei Contest.
“They put it on one of their hats,” Vea said. “But the lei is mine. I made it.”
Vea was announced the grand prize winner in the adult Beautiful category at the annual lei contest at the West Kauai Visitor Center. She also picked up the third-place award for her lei featuring red blossoms.
“I don’t know what it is,” Vea said of the flower. “But I don’t throw anything away. I make lei with them. I even have one made from chocolate candy wrappers.”
Aletha Kaohi of the visitor center said this year’s contest missed having any lei from Manny Rapozo, who passed away last year.
“It’s sad,” Kaohi said. “Manny had some beautiful lei every year. He was such a special person. The girls asked if we could create an award in his honor. That was just this morning. This year, we have the highest award — the Alii Award in memory of Manny Rapozo.”
Evelyn Olores earned the award with her feather creation.
“We miss Manny,” Kaohi said. “We’ll send something to his family — to get flowers.”
Peggy Castillo was especially proud when she spotted lei created by her children, Kaizey and Kaizen.
“They’re still in school,” Peggy said. “We’re getting ready to pick them up. Kaizey won the grand prize for Grade K through 2 Unique division as well as second place in that category. Kaizen got first place in the Grade 6 through 8 Beautiful class. It was only leaves, but he won.”
Braden Sanpei swept both the Beautiful and Unique divisions for grades six to eight. Pi‘ikea Sahut, Urijah Acoba-Vea, Halia Albarado, Makaio Baniaga, Niryanne Santiago, Jennis Christian and Gary Fujioka all won grade-level prizes.